November-December 2016 | ART FROM THE HEART




After overcoming some hurdles, Salisbury artist Abbi Custis finds herself on a blank canvas

Written By: Robbie Tarpley Raffish | Photographer: Katie Horseman

As a kid, Abbi Custis was a self-professed Type A personality — driven and highly organized. At the time, an upper-school art teacher at The Salisbury School (TSS) spotted Abbi’s talent hiding behind her rigid style. “He sent me outside with paint, a spoon, some sticks and a canvas and told me not to come back until I had a painting. Not even a single paintbrush!” said Custis. “It transformed my art, by changing how I saw the world and myself.”

Custis had been struggling academically. Poor SAT scores were followed with a diagnosis of dyslexia and “finally, everything made sense.” After a very successful senior art show, she attended Dickinson College (no standardized tests required) and ran the Art Barn for Camp Odyssey during the summer. Both fostered her talents.

She moved to Washington, D.C., after graduation and became an event planner, soaking up the energy of the city. But between long work hours and a tiny apartment, she stopped painting with any regularity.

After marrying her husband, John, an attorney, they relocated to the Virginia Eastern Shore. Their first child followed. Working on the nursery, Custis “knew I wanted art, and it seemed silly for someone else to do the paintings.” She picked up her brushes entered a new chapter of her career.

Today, with three young boys (Baker, 5; Winn, 3; and Mapp 18 months), Custis and her husband, John, have returned to her native Salisbury. Here, she is near her family, and her children attend TSS. And she happily paints original works and commissions from her expansive studio.

Her work can be memory-provoking for locals and visitors. Pieces like Take Me to the Rides and Maryland Flag evoke her love for the state and the Shore, while others, such as Be Still, draw the viewer into a calmer state of self-awareness. On Dec. 2, she will host her first solo show, titled “Wild But Still,” in Downtown Salisbury. Paintings, greeting cards, Christmas ornaments, cocktail napkins and other gifts will be available for purchase.

Custis hopes for another impact on the world, as an advocate for kids with dyslexia. “I’m not sure what that will look like,” she said, but it may look much like the work in her studio — wild, still and strong.

“Wild But Still – The Art of Abbi Custis” December 2, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 234 West Main St. (the former Parker Place) in historic Downtown Salisbury. * Parking available behind the building 

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